I do not cry in public.
It is just something that I do not allow my self today. It just makes me feel worse about myself and I am a really really ugly crier. I get all red and blotchy. When I cry it is just a horrible experience for everyone.
So when I heard about that the Names Can Really Hurt Us program coming to Woodland I was scared. If it was really as intense and memorable as everyone said it was going to be then I was probably going to cry. And then we would have a problem.
Then when I found out I was going to have to facilitate a small group on the day of Names my anxiety increased.
Walking into the auditorium the morning of November 27
I felt a chill and I had a small pit in my stomach. I collected my Names pin and sparkly little ribbon and listened to the instructions of what to do for the day.
Just like the other 300 some odd kids in the auditorium I listened half-heartedly to the opening speeches and icebreakers.
Then they announced the Panelists.
They were five kids sitting on the stage who were going to be the first ones to share their stories about how bullying has effected their lives.
A wonderfully dressed girl began by telling a chilling story about how her family life had made her a bully and how she overcame it.
A girl who I always thought was happy go lucky and hysterical told her heart aching story about her personal experience with racism.
A strong tough football player shocked us all when he shared how bullying on the field has effected him.
A peppy girl who I’d known practically all my life told the room that she had a Facebook hate page made about her.
A smart and friendly girl told a story about how she tries to fight bullying.
By the time the five stories were finished I was shaky.
The room was silent.
Not in a million years had I expected these stories to be so real. I expected monotone, prewritten explanations that would go in one ear and out the other.
In reality, these kids had tremendous amounts of courage in not only telling their stories but also telling them well and in a way that really made people listen.
At this point, it was time for the Open Mic portion of the day. The moderator invited all students who had a story that they wanted to share to come up to the microphone.
After about a minute of crickets and kids shuffling in their seats, I decided that it was going to be a waste of time. Clearly not everyone in the room was as moved by the panelists as I was.
But once again, my peers proved me wrong as people rose from their seats and went up the microphone. Soon enough, lines started to form in front of the two microphones set up in front of the stage. Dozens of kids had story that they wanted to share.
The support was unbelievable. As kids waited for their turn to share their story, friends would stand by their sides hugging them and holding their hands; convincing them that they could get up their and share.
Students in the audience were clapping and yelling words of encouragement.
At one point, a small sophomore in a football jersey came up to the mic. As he began to talk, one of his teammates rose from his seat and went to stand by his side. Within seconds, the entire football team was standing in a circle around the boy at microphone.
And that was when I lost it.
It was mind blowing to me how everyone in the room had become connected.
After about an hour or so, it was time to move on from Open Mic. There was still dozens of kids who had a story to share but there just wasn’t enough time. I was disappointed and so was everyone else in the audience.
From there, we broke off into small groups and went to classrooms to continue the discussion.
In my opinion though, as soon as everyone filled out the doors of the auditorium no one was in the mood to talk anymore.
But the important thing is that people did talk and others did listen.
Even more important is that we remember the amount of compassion that was showed to each other in the auditorium on the day of Names.
We have to take that open minded attitude and show it towards everyone everyday.
We should not have to be nice to someone because they’ve had a rough go of it.
We should just be nice to everyone period.
Let’s not let this message pass us by.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated and you will find Woodland to be a different place.